TEGUCIGALPA – While the Organization of American States (OAS) takes steps to evaluate the possibility of readmitting Honduras, tens of thousands of Hondurans are expected to take steps of their own next week in a nationwide march to protest the event that led to their country’s ouster from the organization in the first place.
June 28 marks the one-year anniversary of the military coup that forced ex-President Manuel Zelaya from power and pushed Honduras to the fringe of the international community. A year later, the ghosts of the coup continue to haunt Honduras, which remains internally divided and internationally marginalized.
The United States and Canada claim Honduras has suffered enough and it’s time for other countries to normalize relations with this beleaguered Central American nation.
“We shouldn’t keep punishing Honduras and the poorest of the poor who are affected by sanctions and isolation,” said Canadian Ambassador to Honduras Neil Reeder. “It’s time to move forward and continue to focus on building a community again in Honduras and promoting reconciliation.”
Still, a bloc of South American holdouts led by Brazil and Venezuela insists the new Honduran government of Porfirio Lobo has not made enough concessions to be let back into the fold, and shouldn’t be welcomed back with open arms (NT, May 28).
The Lobo government insists it’s trying to reconcile the country and make nice with the international community.
“We have a government of unity and national reconciliation,” said Deputy Minister of Security Armando Calidonio. “For the first time in the history of Honduras, all the political parties are represented in the cabinet, even the so-called resistance.”
The government insists those efforts at inclusion and reconciliation are convincing other friendly nations to give Honduras a second chance.
“We are seeing that countries are in solidarity with us, not only because we are Hondurans but because other governments are in agreement with the actions that our president has taken,” Foreign Minister Mario Canahuati told The Nica Times. “(Other countries) believe in our efforts to consolidate democracy and strengthen the transparency of our government institutions.”
The resistance movement that was born in response to the coup says the government’s claim of reconciliation is just lip service.
A year after the coup, resistance leaders insist their movement is alive and growing, and now represents a majority of the country.
The June 28 march will be the resistance movement’s first show of force since Lobo took office in January. In many ways, it will be a test of the movement’s continued cohesion and mission one year on.
Resistance leaders say they expect a big turnout.
Movement organizer Gilda Velásquez said the resistance is no longer about Zelaya, but rather the future of Honduras.
Unlike any event in Honduras’ past, last year’s coup served as a catalyst for joining the country’s diverse social and economic justice movements under one tent, Velasquez said.
The resistance brought together diverse groups such as gay rights activists, environmentalists and political leftists. It also incorporated large numbers of people who had never been organized before, the activist said.
In short, the coup united Honduras’ silent and divided majority and gave them common cause like never before, Valasquez said.
“Now these former minority groups are not interested only in their personal agendas, but in the concept of the state and rescuing Honduras,” she said. “The state of Honduras is in a precarious situation. We need a new constitution and a new social contract.”
Valasquez also challenges the claim that the Lobo government is concerned with reconciliation. If anything, she said, repression and intolerance have intensified since the coup.
She says 26 gay-rights activists have been killed this year. She thinks the increase in violence towards the gay community is political, since many in the GLBT community have become organized within the resistance movement.
“We are united to defend a new state. That’s what unifies us,” she said.
Obama Fails First Test in L.A.
While next Monday’s march will be a test of both the opposition’s claims to organizational capacity and the government’s claims of tolerance, some lessons from the coup have already become clear.
That’s particularly true when it comes to the United States’ inconsistent handling of the coup, which it first condemned but quickly forgave.
The Honduras situation was U.S. President Barack Obama’s first test in Latin America. And many feel his administration didn’t do enough studying beforehand.
“Washington needs to do better than just react to circumstances. It has to think through possible consequences and adopt a more strategic approach. It is not wise to pursue a policy without first fully understanding the politics on the ground,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington, D.C. think tank on Latin America.
Moving forward, he said, the Honduran crisis will hopefully “Turn out to be a wakeup all that alerts the region to the precarious state of democracy in some countries and the severe limitations of current multilateral mechanisms.”